Mulberry’s heritage lies in Somerset, but its contemporary incarnation is fundamentally London. Both are British, but they’re two different sides. For SS2017, Mulberry’s Creative Director Johnny Coca compares and contrasts our different notions of Britishness - of respect, and rebellion.
Britain is a nation of uniforms - of public school and military, town and country, gentlemen and ladies of the manor. This collection draws inspiration from those uniforms of British society, but mixes and juxtaposes them, fusing them together, like two sides of the same coin.
Utility is a key notion, referencing back to Mulberry’s iconic postman’s lock - functional, and decorative. That notion is expressed through oak and khaki separates with a feel of Forties “Land Girls”, or ruffled pinafores and apron details. The signature stripes characteristic of British education and Oxbridge colleges printed across fluid silk twills and crisp knits, in old-school, collegiate scarf colours: oxblood, navy and racing green, with brilliant shots of peregrine-beak yellow.
The movement of the Scottish kilt is transposed into swinging silk dresses. Authentic blazer wools, in patterns and colours dating back a century, are used in brief jackets and wide trousers and shorts. Their proportions are resolutely contemporary - like naughty school children tinkering with their uniforms, to find their own means of expression.
The notions of the gentleman and the lady are played out in rich textures, patterns and decoration. Paisley, like an English gentleman’s robe, recurs as a decorative pattern, alongside the faded grandeur of Mitford-style baby florals in pastel hues for dresses and skirts. Ruffle details are sliced free, displaced, and animated around the body, to give these garden party classics a modern twist. A sequence of luxurious velvet is, ironically, wet-look, like debutantes caught in a decidedly English summer shower; they contrast with slick rain-coats in polished patent-leather.
Accessories emphasise Mulberry’s love of craft, alongside Johnny Coca’s rebellious streak, underlining the collections’ exploration of the uniforms of British culture. Patchworks of stripes in rich, hearty school-tie colours, give a geometric pop and add texture; some are then peppered with studs, in a nod to another “uniform” - punk. The Cherwell bag takes inspiration from utilitarian teachers’ satchels and lunch boxes, while Johnny Coca’s new outsize Bayswater Piccadilly is inlaid with a college-scarf of coloured leather, an update on a new and timeless classic.
Footwear crosses the gentleman with the lady, in dandy square-toed slippers tipped with feminine ruffles. High, fluted heels are evocative of the eighteenth century, either embroidered with delicate paisley motifs fit for a duchess, or given a twisted modernity via the collection’s key college colours and punk hardware. Old meeting new, heritage colliding with modernity. The collection’s jewellery draws on these themes, combining heirloom elements of classical jewellery with striking shapes and finishes, a bricolage of different eras and styles, like jewellery handed down through generations and updated by each.
Scholarly inspirations results in modernist metal jewellery that draws on Mulberry’s utilitarian background. It resembles pencils, whistles or manipulated paper-clips, reworked and made precious. A witty series of artisanal jewellery takes human hands as its form, oversized pendants and brooches resting against the body, each hand “signing” a different phrase. Communicating a message of love and contemporary cool, this is jewellery as a study of language, a new way of expressing individuality. “Classic, but unclassic,” says Johnny Coca. “There’s always a reference to British heritage, but it’s about how we can use tradition, to make it feel modern. How we can break the rules, to make it new.”
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